About Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing

Note: The 2021 final birth data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) are now available. 

Parenting at any age can be challenging, but it can be particularly difficult for adolescent parents. In 2020, just over 158,000 babies were born to females ages 15-19.1 Most teen pregnancies are unintended, but many adolescents do not have access to information and services to help them delay or avoid pregnancy.2,3,4 Some challenges adolescents face when they have babies before they turn 20 compared to older parents include being:

  • Less likely to finish high school
  • More likely to need public assistance
  • More likely to have low income as adults, and as a result,
  • More likely to have children who face challenges like poorer educational, behavioral, and health outcomes5

Teen birth rates in the United States have declined almost continuously since the early 1990s, and have dropped to a new low each year since 2009.1 Between the 1991 peak and 2020, the teen birth rate decreased by more than 75 percent in the United States (from 61.8 to 15.4 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19).1 Despite this decline, the U.S. teen birth rate is still higher than that of many other developed countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.6

Recent studies have explored strategies to reduce teen childbearing and its associated potential challenges. For example, implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, expanding access to Medicaid family planning services, and utilizing mass media campaigns to promote safer sex may reduce teen pregnancy.7 The Office of Population Affairs (OPA) Teen Pregnancy Prevention program is a national, evidence-based program that funds diverse organizations working to prevent teen pregnancy across the United States.

Footnotes

1 Osterman, M. J. K., Hamilton, B. E., Martin, J. A., Driscoll, A. K., & Valenzuela, C.P. (2022). Births: Final data for 2020 (National Vital Statistics Reports Volume 70, Number 17). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr70/nvsr70-17.pdf back to top

2 Brittain, A. W., Loyola Briceno, A. C., Pazol, K., Zapata, L. B., Decker, E., Rollison, J. M., Malcolm, N. M., Romero, L. M., & Koumans, E. H. (2018). Youth-friendly family planning services for young people: A systematic review update. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 55(5), 725–735. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2018.06.010 back to top

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019, September 12). Unintended pregnancy. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/contraception/unintendedpregnancy/index.htm back to top

4 Finer, L. B., & Zolna, M. R. (2016). Declines in unintended pregnancy in the United States, 2008-2011. The New England Journal of Medicine, 374(9), 843–852. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMsa1506575 back to top

5 Hoffman, S. D., & Maynard, R. A. (Eds.). (2008). Kids having kids: Economic costs and social consequences of teen pregnancy (2nd ed.). Urban Institute Press. back to top

6 The World Bank. (n.d.). Adolescent fertility rate (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19) [Data set]. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.ADO.TFRT back to top

7 Sawhill, I. V., & Guyot, K. (2019). Preventing unplanned pregnancy: Lessons from the states. Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/research/preventing-unplanned-pregnancy-lessons-from-the-states back to top